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AT&T

AT&T To End Targeted Ads Program, Give All Users Lowest Available Price 37

AT&T has confirmed to ArsTechnica that it is getting rid of Internet Preferences, a controversial program that analyzed home internet customers' web browsing habits in order to serve some targeted ads. From the report:"To simplify our offering for our customers, we plan to end the optional Internet Preferences advertising program related to our fastest Internet speed tiers," an AT&T spokesperson said. "As a result, all customers on these tiers will receive the best rate we have available for their speed tier in their area. We'll begin communicating this update to customers early next week." Data collection and targeted ads will be shut off, AT&T also confirmed. Since AT&T introduced Internet Preferences for its GigaPower fiber Internet service in 2013, customers had to opt into the traffic scanning program in order to receive the lowest available rate. Customers who wanted more privacy had to pay another $29 a month for standalone Internet access; bundles including TV or phone service could cost more than $60 extra when customers didn't opt in.
The Courts

Appeals Court Decision Kills North Carolina Town's Gigabit Internet (hothardware.com) 222

MojoKid writes: In early August, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the FCC had no authority to prevent states from imposing restrictions on municipal internet. This was a result of the FCC stepping in last year in an effort to "remove barriers to broadband investment and competition." However, the courts sided with the states, which said that the FCC's order impeded on state rights. In the end, this ruling clearly favored firmly entrenched big brand operators like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and ATT, which lobbied hard to keep competition at bay. The federal ruling specifically barred municipal internet providers from offering service outside of their city limits, denying them from providing service to under-served communities. The fallout from the federal court's rejection of the FCC order to extend a lifeline to municipal internet providers has claimed another victim. The small community of Pinetops, North Carolina -- population 1,300 -- will soon have its gigabit internet connection shut off. Pinetops has been the recipient of Greenlight internet service, which is provided by the neighboring town of Wilson. The town of Wilson has been providing electric power to Pinetops for the past 40 years, and had already deployed fiber through the town in order to bolster its smart grid initiative. What's infuriating to the Wilson City Council and to the Pinetop residents that will lose their high-speed service is that the connections are already in place. There's no logical reason why they should be cut off, but state laws and the lobbyists supporting those laws have deemed what Greenlight is doing illegal. Provide power to a neighboring town -- sure that's OK. Provide better internet to a neighboring town -- lawsuit
AT&T

AT&T Is Phasing Out the U-Verse Video, Broadband Brand (fiercetelecom.com) 43

AT&T is killing off the 'U-Verse' brand after its $69 billion acquisition of DirecTV. AT&T's broadband and phone services will now be called AT&T Internet and AT&T Phone. The company says the move will bring "simplicity" across the swaths of services it offers. FierceTelecom adds: This transition should not be of any great surprise as the same trend has been taking place with U-verse TV. AT&T has been driving new TV customers to its DirecTV satellite service, a process that could enable the telco to use the additional bandwidth to increase broadband speeds. While AT&T is still supporting current U-verse IPTV customers, the telco has not indicated how long they will continue to offer that service. Additionally, AT&T may also phase out the DirecTV name at some point, but industry insiders said that won't occur until it launches its streaming video service under DirecTV. AT&T has already been moving away from the U-Verse name by directing new TV customers to the company's DirecTV satellite TV service. The company will likely then use the freed bandwidth from that transition to improve overall broadband speeds. Existing U-Verse TV customers are being supported for now, but it's unclear how long that will last.The Hollywood Reporter states that the move is also necessary because AT&T plans to launch three streaming video services next quarter.
Verizon

Comcast Will Launch a Wireless Service Next Year (businessinsider.com) 50

Steve Kovach, writing for Business Insider:Comcast plans to launch its own wireless service in 2017, CEO Brian Roberts said at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference Tuesday. Since Comcast doesn't have its own cell towers, it'll rely on WiFi networks for connectivity. The user will be switched to Verizon's network when they're away from WiFi. There are already a few smaller carriers that offer services like this, like Google's Project Fi and Republic Wireless. Those companies work as mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) and pay major wireless carriers like Sprint or T-Mobile to use their cell towers when users aren't connected to WiFi. MVNOs tend to be cheaper than traditional wireless carriers, offering benefits like the option to only pay for the data you use. The move will also help Comcast and Verizon compete with AT&T, which merged with DirecTV and is able to offer combined wireless, home broadband, and TV packages.
AT&T

AT&T and Comcast Helped Elected Official Write Plan To Stall Google Fiber (arstechnica.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: As the Nashville Metro Council prepares for a final vote to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles, one council member is sponsoring an alternative plan that comes from ATT and Comcast. The council has tentatively approved a One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) ordinance that would let a single company -- Google Fiber in this case -- make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself. Ordinarily, Google Fiber must wait for incumbent providers like ATT and Comcast to send construction crews to move their own wires, requiring multiple visits and delaying Google Fiber's broadband deployment. The pro-Google Fiber ordinance was approved in a 32-7 preliminary vote, but one of the dissenters asked ATT and Comcast to put forth a competing proposal before a final vote is taken. The new proposal from council member Sheri Weiner "call[s] for Google, ATT, Comcast and Nashville Electric Service to create a system that improves the current process for making utility poles ready for new cables," The Tennessean reported last week. "Weiner said ATT and Comcast helped draft the resolution she proposes." Weiner told Ars that she asked ATT and Comcast to propose a resolution. "I told them that I would file a resolution if they had something that made sense and wasn't as drastic as OTMR," Weiner told Ars in an e-mail today, when we asked her what role ATT and Comcast played in drafting the resolution. Weiner said she is insisting on some changes to the resolution, but the proposal (full text) was submitted without those changes. When asked why she didn't put her suggested changes in the version of the resolution published on the council website, Weiner said, "I had them [ATT and Comcast] submit it for me as I was out of town all last week on business (my day job)." Weiner said an edited resolution will be considered by the council during its next meeting. Weiner's plan could stall the OTMR ordinance and -- though it might improve Google Fiber's current situation -- would not provide the quick access to poles sought by Google Fiber and most council members. However, Weiner said she is willing to support OTMR later on if her proposal doesn't result in significant improvements.
Communications

Cable Lobby Tries To Make You Forget That It Represents Cable Companies (arstechnica.com) 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. cable industry's biggest lobby group has dropped the word "cable" from its name in a rebrand focusing on its members' role as providers of both Internet and TV services. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) will henceforth be called NCTA-The Internet and Television Association. NCTA will be maintained in the name as a nod to the group's past, even though the initials no longer stand for any particular words. "Just as our industry is witnessing an exciting transformation driven by technology and connectivity, NCTA's brand must reflect the vibrancy and diversity of our members," NCTA CEO Michael Powell (a former Federal Communications Commission chairman) said in today's announcement. The group's "mission to drive the industry forward remains the same," he said. This isn't the NCTA's first name change. The group began as the National Community Television Council in 1951 and then became the National Community Television Association in 1952, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Despite dropping the word "cable," the NCTA's name change announcement makes reference to how cable companies are dominating the broadband market. Powell noted that the NCTA "represent[s] an industry that is America's largest and fastest home Internet provider." As it goes forward, the NCTA won't be the only telecom lobby group initialism that no longer stands for anything. The CTIA -- previously known as the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and then the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association -- is now just "CTIA-The Wireless Association."
Intel

Intel Breaks Qualcomm's Hold On Apple's Baseband Chips (wsj.com) 84

Long-time Slashdot reader randomErr writes: In a big blow to Qualcomm, Apple plans to incorporate Intel baseband chips into at least some models of the new iPhone 7. The selection of Intel chip means that in newer iPhones Apple will no longer support CDMA technology popularized by Qualcomm. The Wall Street Journal states that many industry analysts believe Intel could be supplying as many as half of of baseband chips for Apple's handsets.
This was the last key iPhone component that didn't have two sources, and the Journal estimates that Intel's revenues could now increase by up to $700 million before the end of 2016.
The Internet

Verizon Now Offers 'Unlimited' Data On All Plans, Without $5 Fee (dslreports.com) 36

In July, Verizon announced some big changes coming to its data plans that will make them more expensive, but will add more data. They include some new features like "Carryover Data," which is Verizon slang for rollover data, and "Safety mode," which eliminates the prospect of an overage fee and reduces the speed of the service until the end of the month. Originally, the "feature" was $5 per month for some shared data plans and was included free for Verizon's XL and XXL plan customers. However, this week Verizon announced it's now including safety mode for "free" on all plans, according to DSL Reports. "Responding to ATT's own new plans and renewed pressure from T-Mobile, Verizon will no longer be charging users the $5 'safety mode' fee starting September 6th. Instead, you'll just be throttled to 128 kbps for the remainder of your billing cycle, unless you're willing to pay $15 per each additional gigabyte at LTE speeds. That's good news for users on the S (2GB), M (4GB) and L (8GB) who were shelling out an extra $5 per month, though it doesn't really help make Verizon's new plans any more interesting overall."
AT&T

US Appeals Court Dismisses AT&T Data Throttling Lawsuit (reuters.com) 26

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A federal appeals court in California on Monday dismissed a U.S. government lawsuit that accused ATT Inc of deception for reducing internet speeds for customers with unlimited mobile data plans once their use exceeded certain levels. The company, however, could still face a fine from the Federal Communications Commission regarding the slowdowns, also called "data throttling." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said it ordered a lower court to dismiss the data-throttling lawsuit, which was filed in 2014 by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC sued ATT on the grounds that the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier failed to inform consumers it would slow the speeds of heavy data users on unlimited plans. In some cases, data speeds were slowed by nearly 90 percent, the lawsuit said. The FTC said the practice was deceptive and, as a result, barred under the Federal Trade Commission Act. ATT argued that there was an exception for common carriers, and the appeals court agreed.
AT&T

ISP Lobbyists Pushing Telecom Act Rewrite (dslreports.com) 77

Karl Bode, reporting for DSLReports:Telecom lobbyists are pushing hard for a rewrite of the Telecom Act, this time with a notable eye on cutting FCC funding and overall authority. AT&T donated at least $70,000 to back Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, and clearly expects him to spearhead the rewrite and make it a priority in 2017. The push is an industry backlash to a number of consumer friendly initiatives at the FCC, including new net neutrality rules, the reclassification of ISPs under Title II, new broadband privacy rules, new cable box reform and an attempt to protect municipal broadband. AT&T's Ryan donation is the largest amount AT&T has ever donated to a single candidate, though outgoing top AT&T lobbyist Jim Cicconi has also thrown his support behind Hillary Clinton.
AT&T

AT&T Says LTE Can Still Offer Speeds Up To 1 Gbps (dslreports.com) 51

An anonymous reader writes from a report via DSL Reports: ATT CTO Andre Fuetsch said at a telecom conference last week that the company's existing LTE network should be able to reach speeds of 1 Gbps before the standard ultimately gets overshadowed by faster 5G tech. The new 5G technology isn't expected to arrive until 2020 at the earliest, so LTE has a lot of time left as the predominant wireless connectivity. "There's a lot of focus on 5G -- but don't discount LTE," Fuetsch said. "LTE is still here. And LTE will be around for a long time. And LTE has also enormous potential in that, you'll be capable of supporting 1 gigabit speeds as well." 5G will help move past 1 Gbps speeds, while also providing significantly lower latency. "You'll see us sharing more about the trial activity we're doing," said Fuetsch. "Everything that's being [tested] right now is not standard, it's all sort of proprietary. But this is an important process to go through because this is how you learn and how it helps define standards."
AT&T

AT&T, Apple, Google To Work On 'Robocall' Crackdown (reuters.com) 113

Last month the FCC had pressed major U.S. phone companies to take immediate steps to develop technology that blocks unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge. It had demanded the concerned companies to come up with a "concrete, actionable" plan within 30 days. Well, the companies have complied. On Friday, 30 major technology companies announced they are joining the U.S. government to crack down on automated, pre-recorded telephone calls that regulators have labeled as "scourge." Reuters adds: AT&T, Alphabet, Apple, Verizon Communications and Comcast are among the members of the "Robocall Strike Force," which will work with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The strike force will report to the commission by Oct. 19 on "concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions," said AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, who is chairing the group. The group hopes to put in place Caller ID verification standards that would help block calls from spoofed phone numbers and to consider a "Do Not Originate" list that would block spoofers from impersonating specific phone numbers from governments, banks or others.
AT&T

AT&T Is Boosting Data Plans, Dropping Overage Fees (reuters.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: ATT Inc, the No. 2 U.S wireless provider, said on Wednesday that it would roll out a new data plan that does away with overage fees and reduces data speeds for wireless customers who surpass their data allowance. Beginning Sunday, customers can choose the new Mobile Share Advantage plan and pay for extra data, if needed, or work with slower data speeds instead of paying for overages, the company said in a statement. Its current plan includes a $5 data overage charge per 300 megabytes on its 300-megabyte plan and $15 per 1 gigabyte on other plans. ATT has also revised prices and data bucket sizes. For instance, its larger 25-gigabyte plan now costs $190 per month for four smartphone lines. It previously cost $235. All the new plans include an access charge of $10 to $40 per month for each device, ATT said. The new plans will continue to have features such as unlimited text and talk and rollover data. Plans above 10 gigabytes also include unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada and no roaming charges in Mexico. Last month, Verizon introduced a new "Safety Mode" for its data plans that similarly throttles customers who exceed their monthly allotment to avoid overages. While Verizon charges customers on lower tier plans for the feature, ATT notes that it does not apply any extra charges.
AT&T

Cable Expands Broadband Domination as AT&T and Verizon Lose Customers (arstechnica.com) 104

The cable industry's grip on the U.S. broadband space increased last quarter, with Comcast and Charter gaining nearly 500,000 subscribers, combined. Phone companies AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, and Frontier, however, all lost Internet customers. ArsTechnica reports:The 14 largest ISPs, accounting for 95 percent of the US market, gained 192,510 Internet customers in Q2 2016, bringing the total to 91.9 million, Leichtman Research Group reported today. Cable companies accounted for all of the gains, adding 553,293 subscribers for a new total of 57 million. The phone companies lost 360,783 subscribers, bringing them down to 34.9 million. Phone companies' losses more than doubled since Q2 2015, when they lost about 150,000 subscribers. [...] Comcast and Charter, the two biggest ISPs, led the way in subscriber gains. Comcast added 220,000 broadband subscribers to boost its total to 24 million, while Charter (the new owner of Time Warner Cable) added 277,000 subscribers for a new total of 21.8 million. AT&T lost 123,000 subscribers, lowering its total to 15.6 million. Verizon lost 83,000, leaving it with 7 million Internet customers. CenturyLink and Frontier lost 66,000 and 77,000, respectively.
Communications

Next Generation of Wireless -- 5G -- Is All Hype (backchannel.com) 90

Many people have promised us that 5G will be here very soon. And it will be the best thing ever. To quote Lowell McAdam, the CEO of Verizon, 5G is "wireless fiber," and to quote SK Telecom, thanks to 5G we will soon be able to "transfer holograms" because the upcoming standard is "100 times faster" than our current communications system 4G LTE. But if we were to quote Science, the distant future isn't nearly as lofty as the one promised by executives. Backchannel explains: "5G" is a marketing term. There is no 5G standard -- yet. The International Telecommunications Union plans to have standards ready by 2020. So for the moment "5G" refers to a handful of different kinds of technologies that are predicted, but not guaranteed, to emerge at some point in the next 3 to 7 years. (3GPP, a carrier consortium that will be contributing to the ITU process, said last year that until an actual standard exists, '"5G' will remain a marketing & industry term that companies will use as they see fit." At least they're candid.) At the moment, advertising something as "5G" carries no greater significance than saying it's "blazing fast" or "next generation" -- nut because "5G" sounds technical, it's good for sales. We are a long way away from actual deployment. [...] Second, this "wireless fiber" will never happen unless we have... more fiber. Real fiber, in the form of fiber optic cables reaching businesses and homes. (This is the "last mile" problem; fiber already runs between cities.) It's just plain physics. In order to work, 99% of any "5G" wireless deployment will have to be fiber running very close to every home and business. The high-frequency spectrum the carriers are planning to use wobbles billions of times a second but travels incredibly short distances and gets interfered with easily. So it's great at carrying loads of information -- every wobble can be imprinted with data -- but can't go very far at all.
Communications

US Broadband: Still No ISP Choice For Many, Especially at Higher Speeds (arstechnica.com) 95

Despite things getting better with adoption -- however slow -- of Google Fiber in several regions of the United States, the broadband market has gotten slightly less competitive since 2013, says a new report from the FCC. The report adds that, as a result, Americans still have little choice of high-speed broadband providers (PDF). From an ArsTechnica report: At the FCC's 25Mbps download/3Mbps upload broadband standard, there are no ISPs at all in 30 percent of developed census blocks and only one offering service that fast in 48 percent of the blocks. About 55 percent of census blocks have no 100Mbps/10Mbps providers, and only about 10 percent have multiple options at that speed. At the 10Mbps/1Mbps threshold -- which captures slower DSL technology in addition to cable and fiber -- about 90 percent of census blocks have at least two providers. These numbers exclude satellite, which is available nearly everywhere but has high latency and often low data caps. Even these numbers overstate the amount of competition, because an ISP might offer service to only part of a census block. The percentage of households with choice is thus even lower.
AT&T

AT&T Is Paying $7.75 Million in Refunds and Fines Over Sham Calls (fortune.com) 38

AT&T will pay $7.75 million after a federal investigation found it allowed unauthorized third-party charges on its customers' telephone bills, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said Monday, reports Reuters (via Fortune). From the report: The company allowed "scammers to charge customers approximately $9 per month for a sham directory assistance service," the FCC said Monday. The fraud was uncovered by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration while investigating two Ohio companies for drug-related crimes and money laundering, the FCC said. The settlement includes $6.8 million in refunds and a $950,000 federal fine, the FCC said. AT&T signed a consent decree with the FCC and agreed to cease billing for nearly all third-party products and services on landline bills and adopt procedures to obtain express consent from customers prior to allowing third-party charges. The company also agreed to revise its billing practices to ensure third-party charges are conspicuously identified on bills.
Network

Cable Companies Urge Judges To Kill 'Net Neutrality' Rules 170

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Trade associations representing wireless, cable and broadband operators on Friday urged the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse...the Federal Communications Commission's so-called net neutrality rules, put in place last year to make internet service providers treat all internet traffic equally...

The cable groups said the court should correct "serious errors" in a decision "that radically reshapes federal law governing a massive sector of the economy, which flourished due to hundreds of billions of dollars of investment made in reliance on the policy the order throws overboard".. In its filing on Friday, the CTIA said it was illegal to subject broadband internet access to "public-utility style, common carrier regulation" and illegal to impose "common-carrier status on mobile broadband."

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he wasn't surprised to see "the big dogs" challenging net neutrality.

Compare cable TV providers at Wirefly.
Communications

AT&T Violated Rule Requiring Low Prices For Schools, FCC Says (arstechnica.com) 58

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica: AT&T overcharged two Florida school districts for phone service and should have to pay about $170,000 to the U.S. government to settle the allegations, the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday. AT&T disputes the charges and will contest the decision. The FCC issued a Notice of Apparently Liability (NAL) to AT&T, an initial step toward enforcing the proposed punishment. The alleged overcharges relate to the FCC's E-Rate program, which funds telecommunications for schools and libraries and is paid for by Americans through surcharges on phone bills. The FCC said AT&T should have to repay $63,760 it improperly received from the FCC in subsidies for phone service provided to Orange and Dixie Counties and pay an additional fine of $106,425. AT&T prices charged to the districts were almost 400 percent higher than they should have been, according to the FCC. AT&T violated the FCC's "lowest corresponding price rule" designed to ensure that schools and libraries "get the best rates available by prohibiting E-Rate service providers from charging them more than the lowest price paid by other similarly situated customers for similar telecommunications services," the FCC said. Instead of charging the lowest available price, "AT&T charged the school districts prices for telephone service that were magnitudes higher than many other customers in Florida," the FCC said. Between 2012 and 2015, the school districts paid "some of the highest prices in the state... for basic telephone services."
AT&T

FCC Calls On Phone Companies To Offer Free Robocall Blocking (fastcompany.com) 120

The FCC chairman on Friday pressed major U.S. phone companies to take immediate steps to develop technology that blocks unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge. Chairman Tom Wheeler, in letters to CEOs of Verizon Communications, AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular, Level 3 Communications, Frontier Communications, Bandwidth.com, and T-Mobile, said that so-called robocalls, automated pre-recorded telephone calls often from telemarketers or scam artists continue because the industry isn't taking any action. Wheeler demands answers with "concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues" within 30 days. A report on FastCompany adds: Wheeler also urged carriers to create a list of institutions like government agencies and banks that are commonly impersonated by scammers and filter out overseas callers impersonating them through falsified caller ID data

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